Archive | May, 2012

Open letter to Spain on your Failure to Inform

Posted on 09 May 2012 by American expat!


Dear Spain:

Usually I am pretty happy with your leniency with rules and so forth. In fact this is still something I not only value but enjoy observing – it makes me laugh, it really does. But I wasn’t laughing the other week when I discovered that you failed to notify my that cats do, in fact, need passports to travel.

pet travel in spainI took kitty with me to Italy–never mind why I needed to take a cat to Italy, people do stupider things–but you never said anything when I checked in at the ticket counter. You were only concerned that I paid for my pet, although I have to say your people were all pretty charmed to see a cat being walked through the airport in a handbag. The lady at the ticket counter even tried to stick her hand in to pet kitty, though my concerns with kitty fleeing stopped that from happening and probably saved her from getting a bite on her hand.

No I carried my undocumented cat straight through to security, and walked her under the metal detector in my arms when you x-rayed her bag. And although she cried like a human when the plane took off, there were three screaming children around me (as usual) who were louder than my cat so no one seemed to notice.

It wasn’t a bad experience overall, so I wasn’t prepared for what happened on the return journey to Spain.

Which was that kitty got denied.

Yeah, Spain, I had to leave my cat in freaking Italy for four days, until I could get her the aforementioned cat passport. I’m just grateful that she had a place to stay until I could return to collect her, God knows what Spanish people do with their pets when they try to return home and the foreign airport rejects them. But they probably mysteriously know they need a pet passport, unlike me, who thoroughly checked the airline website, emails, and pet requirements and found nothing indicating any paperwork needed.

On the one hand, your leniency is convenient: I mean getting the cat passport was astonishingly easy-The vet positively enjoyed doing all the backdating and information padding the passport required to validate her return. On the other hand,  it cost me a lot of money and time to retrieve kitty. Arranging her delivery, traveling back and forth, waiting in airports. And kitty showed up at the Italian airport rather traumatized due to the driver delivering her being incapable of conducting a car gently, so it really made the trip back here nerve wracking.

I’m not mad, Spain. In fact I wish Italy were more like you. All I am asking is that you try a little harder to keep me informed, OK?

Now let’s hug it out.



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Managing money in Spain

Posted on 08 May 2012 by American expat!

Banking in Spain

Don’t stress about banking in Spain, it’s the one thing I can say they are very efficient at. Unlike in the US, there are no wait times on deposits nor transfers – they are instantaneous. The most popular bank in Catalunya is Caixa Catalunya, after which is probably La Caxia. All you need is a passport to open an account if you are a foreigner. You’ll pay a service fee of 5 Euro a month. If you have a NIE, the fee is waived. Online banking is great, though not necessarily well translated if you choose their English version, but easy enough to navigate and again, transfers to others or to pay bills are instant-no waiting.

Cheap method to transfer money between the US and Spain

If you don’t have an income in Spain, or need to occasionally transfer money to your Spanish account, transferring money from your US bank account to your new Spanish account will cost you about 40-45 dollars a pop. That’s because you have to buy a bank wire. There are not too many alternatives that cost any less, however I DID find one way that takes a lot longer but is far cheaper. If you plan ahead this will work for you.

You will need two Paypal accounts. To open a Paypal account you need a unique email, so use your current email and link it to your US account, and then just create a new gmail/yahoo/hotmail account to set up another Paypal account linked to your Spanish bank account. Once you get them validated, you can gift yourself money from your US Paypal to your Spanish Paypal.

Be sure to mark the transfer as a GIFT, otherwise you will pay Paypal’s high commission rates.

This works, I did it for over a year. Paypal will contact you once you reach 2500 dollars in transfers to make sure you are not laundering money. You will have to prove you own both accounts and have an address in both places. Don’t worry they won’t close your account. They want the money. I still use this method on occasion and it works just fine.

EDIT: As of November 2014, I have stopped using Paypal for my transfers because of their conversion fees. I now recommend TransferWise.  The cost to send from US banks is a flat $15 for amounts over $1500. Read more about it here.

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